2000 – Tom Brady
Tom Brady was drafted as the 199thpick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Few would have expected Brady to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history, but that is the great thing about the draft, even low picks have the chance to become stars. Since debuting, Brady has won five Super Bowl trophies while throwing for more than 66,000-yards.
2001 – Drew Brees
Drafted 32ndoverall from the University of Purdue, Drew Brees has posted a Hall of Fame career. A Super Bowl winner, Brees is a seven-time NFL passing yards leader. The quarterback is a fixture with the New Orleans Saints and has been since 2006. Once Brees retires, it will be difficult for the Saints to rebuild the offense.
2002 – Ed Reed
Ed Reed went on to play in nine Pro Bowls after being selected 24thin the first round of the 2002 draft. Reed has been called one of the top five NFL safeties of all-time. He was a feared defensive back and was another reason the Baltimore Ravens’ defense was so good for years. Reed spent 11 years with the Ravens and helped the team become one of the best AFC sides during that time.
2003 – Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu was selected 16th overall in 2003. Drafted out of USC, Polamalu played 12 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers and won two Super Bowls with the team. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Polamalu won the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. In 12 seasons, Polamalu recorded 770 tackles and 32 interceptions as the heart of Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield.
2004 – Eli Manning
Drafted No. 1 by the San Diego Chargers and immediately traded to the New York Giants, Eli Manning has become synonymous with the franchise. A two-time Super Bowl winner, Manning has passed for more than 51,000 yards in his NFL career. Manning has set a number of Giants’ franchise records, including the most touchdown passes (334).
2005 – Aaron Rodgers
The 24thpick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Aaron Rodgers is the heart and soul of the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers’ 24thpick dumbfounded NFL Draft experts as 23 teams passed on the quarterback. Rodgers’ importance showed in 2017 as his latest injury prevented the Packers from making the playoffs just one season after making the NFC Championship Game.
2006 – Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush played 11 seasons in the NFL after being selected second overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Bush was part of the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl winning team and was selected as a one-time All-Pro. The 2006 draft wasn’t necessarily rife with future elite stars, but Bush was definitely the best of the bunch to come out of college that year.
2007 – Marshawn Lynch
A one-time Super Bowl winner and five-time Pro Bowler, Marshawn Lynch has proven to be the best NFL Draft pick of 2007. The running back was taken 12thoverall by the Buffalo Bills, however, Lynch didn’t become the star football fans know until he moved to the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.
2008 – Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan was taken third overall in 2008 by the Atlanta Falcons. Since then, Ryan has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and the Falcons’ most important player every season. A four-time Pro Bowler and 2016 NFL Most Valuable Player, a Super Bowl victory is the only thing missing from Ryan’s resume.
2009 – LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy has become one of the NFL’s most exciting offensive players. McCoy has rushed for 66 touchdowns while recording 15 receiving scores. The running back was drafted 53rdby the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and currently plies his trade with the Buffalo Bills. A six-time Pro Bowler, McCoy was the 2013 NFL rushing yard leader.
2010 – Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth-round draft pick in 2010 and he quickly became Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target. A four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler, Brown is considered by many to be the best wide receiver in the NFL currently. The Steelers’ wide receiver has recorded nearly 10,000-yards in receptions during his career.
2011 – J.J. Watt
Selected 11thoverall by the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt has been to four Pro Bowls and selected to four NFL All-Pro first teams. Watt has recorded 76 sacks during his seven-year career; and registered 20.5 sacks in two different seasons. The defensive star is one of the most highly rated players in the league. Oh, he has also won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award on three occasions.
2012 – Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson was a third-round pick that once again shows you can’t tell just how good a player will be based on their draft position. The 75thpick overall, Wilson has been selected to four Pro Bowls. He won the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award and a year later led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl win.
2013 – Le’Veon Bell
In five NFL seasons, Le’Veon Bell has been to three Pro Bowls and voted to two NFL All-Pro First Teams. Selected in the second round in 2013, Bell has recorded 35 career rushing touchdowns. Three of Bell’s five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen him run for more than 1,200 yards.
2014 – Odell Beckham
Drafted 12thoverall out of LSU in 2014, Odell Beckham won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in his first season. Until 2017, Beckham had recorded more than 1,300 yards in receptions and 10 or more touchdowns in each season. Last year saw Beckham’s season ended early due to injury and it damaged any chances the New York Giants had of making the postseason. Beckham proved himself to be the best wide receiver in the NFC until his 2017 injury.
2015 – Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley nearly won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 2017; however, Tom Brady just edged out the Los Angeles Rams’ running back. Gurley won the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after being selected 10thoverall. That year saw him run for 1,106 yards. A slight down season followed until Gurley ran for 1,305 yards in 2017. He also registered a career-high 13 touchdowns.
2016 – Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz was the unluckiest NFL player in 2017. The second-year man was phenomenal for the Philadelphia Eagles as the quarterback threw for 33 touchdowns and nearly equaled his rookie season passing yards. In week 14, Wentz suffered a season ending knee injury. It didn’t stop the Eagles from winning the Super Bowl, however. Hopefully, Wentz can rebound for his devastating injury.
2017 – Marshon Lattimore
Selected as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, Marshon Lattimore recorded five interceptions, 52 tackles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown from an interception. It was a sterling season for the cornerback as he made the NFC Pro Bowl team. Selected 11thoverall from Ohio State University, Lattimore became the linchpin of the Saints’ defensive backfield. Next season should see the cornerback and his New Orleans teammates rebound from their last second loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.